How DMOs Can Act Fast in the Age of Slow Travel

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Justin Vogt headshot
by Justin Vogt
SVP, Head of Client Services

Slow travel is about immersion. It’s experiential. In fact, 94% of Americans surveyed are desirous of slow travel to better experience – not visit – a destination. Slow travel represents more than a tour. It’s about letting go of stress. It’s the opposite of, “If it’s Tuesday this must be Belgium.” The greatest appeals to slow travelers span the chance to meet the locals (43%), the sense of the local culture (42%), and the opportunity to fully experience a new time and place at an immersive pace.

As inflation continues to affect the travel economy, the time is now to shift the discussion of slow travel from headline-grabbing international (read expensive and exclusive) destinations like Italy, Sweden, and the Caribbean.

Shifting the conversation to drive markets

Since 16% of Americans travel for vacation within 100 miles of home, an additional 23% opt to stay within 250 miles of home, and an added 20% venture no more than 500 miles from home, we can reach a majority of travelers by simply focusing on drive markets.

Our review of research shows travelers share motives regardless of scope of trip, destination, or size of wallet. Across the destination board, slow travelers exhibit the following traits:

  • receptive and open to slower leisurely experiences
  • ready to discover a different culture
  • educated, and have a good cultural knowledge of where they wish to visit
  • comfortable with a slow-paced philosophy
  • independent minded
  • eco gastronomy (that’s mindful food!) friendly

This presents a couple of exciting opportunities for DMOs to reach their audiences in new ways and meet customers where they are to drive visitation.

Evolve messaging to show a more immersive culture

The seeds of slow travel were first cast in Italy, circa 1986, in response to the creeping influence of the fast food culture, when Carlo Petrini focused on the culturally unique experiences of Italian food. The slow bloom of slow travel continues to reflect the light of local culture. In the end, slow travel is about local culture. Discovering, exploring, and relishing local culture.

Brands can evolve their messaging to highlight experiences and local slices of life, showing that the transactional nature of day trip travel has the potential to turn into longer stays to support local economies, return visits, and a deeper connection between travelers and your destination.

Use smart targeting to meet consumers where they are

As marketers serving drive destination markets, this means local drive destinations will be well served by reaching and engaging audiences via immersive and interactive platforms spanning mobile, social, and experiential rather than traditional advertising.

This allows you to create positive associations with your audience through relevant content that establishes your location as a destination for slow travel. The right targeting, geofencing, and messaging mix yields potential for greater performance. When you combine that with the relative proximity of your destination, you drive repeat visits and lifelong customer relationships. It may not come with the extravagant trappings of an international vacation, but it provides something far more valuable: accessibility without having to compromise on the experience.

With apologies to Italy’s Merchant of Venice we ask, “If you prick these local destinations, do they not bleed? If you tickle them, do they not laugh?” If you market to proven motivations, do they not arrive?

The answer is yes as motives and feelings fueling travel are universal; regardless of location or budget.

Slow travel is no longer the playground of the rich.

Slow travel closer than you think for slow travel is local travel.

It’s time to update your insights.

It’s time to market to the motivations of slow local travel.